Attack of the Drones at Your Sunday Picnic

Drones by their very nature are fun, exciting and a bit like a swarm of bees especially on a Sunday at the local park.

However, they can be very disturbing as they hover eyeing off your egg sandwiches and lemonade.

So is it possible for a local government to regulate where these little buzz boxes can fly?

The answer is YES - it is possible to restrict where, when and how a drone can be used on or over public land.

How can a local government regulate this?

Drones are regulated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and specific rules apply depending on the size and purpose for which the drone is being used.

However, under the Local Laws, a local government can also control drone use on public land by requiring a drone operator to obtain a permit under certain circumstances. Flying a drone over public land could be included as a prohibited, prescribed or restricted activity in local laws which deal with local government-controlled areas and roads.

There are a number of local governments already managing drones activity over public land through their local laws.

Of course, any local laws have to be consistent with State and Commonwealth legislation including CASA regulations which already requires:

  • drones to be registered if they are used for work purposes or are bigger than 2 kg when being used for fun
  • the operator of a drone must also hold a remote pilot licence if the drone is being used for commercial operations or for work
  • the operator must maintain line of sight meaning the drone must be visible at all times unless the operator hold the applicable qualification
  • that drones cannot be flown high than 120 metres off the ground or closer than 30 metres to a person unless the person hold the requisite licence
  • that drones cannot be flown within 5.5 km of a controlled aerodrome without a permit
  • that drones are not to be flown where there is an emergency situation unless authorised; and
  • most relevantly, cannot be flown over or above people at any time or height.

In addition to that, local laws can be drafted to regulate to include the following:

  • times when drones can be used over public land
  • what parks, reserves or public spaces can be used for drone activity
  • the size of a drone that can be used over public land

Under current legislation, fines of up to $1,050 can apply per offence if operators fail to comply with the safe operation of drones guidelines published by CASA. Stiffer penalties can apply if the drone operates in a way that is hazardous to other aircraft, including up to 2 years of jail time.  However, in addition to these fines, a local government with appropriate local laws will also be able to issue infringement notices where the operator of a drone breaches provisions of a local law or the conditions of a permit issued with respect to drone activity on or over public land.

All of this may be a bit of a buzzkill for what is very exciting new technology which is already assisting local governments and other entities in so many ways eg checking out disaster zones,  whether a new roof is required on a tall building or dropping off a coffee as is currently being trialled by a commercial drone operator in Logan.

Keeping a tight leash on drones on or over public land will ensure everyone gets to enjoy the day out in the park and those who forgot the cricket bat can have it dropped in by drone….. where permitted of course!

Preston Law has many many years of experience in drafting effective local laws which achieve the desired outcomes and are enforceable. Please contact our government team if you would like more information

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